Celebrating leadership with Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence

by Rural Ontario Institute 9. November 2015 14:17

It is our pleasure to share that the Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) was honoured as a recipient of the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence today in Cambridge, Ontario.

This award recognizes two leadership training programs that ROI has developed and delivered across Ontario – BUILD Leadership and the Future Leaders Development Program. These programs have been implemented in partnership with Beef Farmers of Ontario and CanWest DHI, Dairy Farmers of Ontario, EastGen and Holstein Canada respectively.   

“We are very pleased to accept this honour and are proud to continue to deliver programming to increase leadership skills and build capacity of current and emerging leaders in rural Ontario,” says Rob Black, Chief Executive Officer, ROI.

For more information, please see the full news release here.



The Federal Liberals Respond to Rural Election Questions

by info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 19. October 2015 07:54

The Rural Ontario Institute received a response from the Liberals to the questions we sent to each of the four main parties.  You may view and download it below:

Enclosed, please find the Liberal Party of Canada’s formal response to your questionnaire.

For more information on the Liberal Party of Canada’s vision for Canada, please take a moment to review our policies online at RealChange.ca. This site provides details on a Liberal government’s policies, goals, and priorities. 

On behalf of our Leader, Justin Trudeau, and the entire Liberal team, thank you for writing to identify the major concerns of your membership.

We appreciate your interest in the Liberal Party of Canada’s policies as they relate to the issues which affect you.



Anna Gainey, President

Liberal Party of Canada


LPC Response (Election 2015) - Réponse du PLC (Élection 2015) Rural Ontario Institute.pdf (1.16 mb)


Another Urban – Rural Divide? New funding formula disadvantages Public Health Units serving rural areas

by info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 8. October 2015 14:40

This guest blog provided by Dr. Hazel Lynn, Medical Officer of Health, Grey-Bruce Health Unit

Generally, rural residents of Canada are less healthy than their urban counterparts.  They have higher overall mortality rates and shorter life expectancies and are at elevated risk for death from injuries such as motor vehicle collisions and suicide.  They are also disadvantaged for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. - Canadian Institute for Health Information

There is a clear urban-rural divide when it comes to health status of Canadians.  The ten healthiest regions across the country are all metropolitan; the top eight are located in or around the metro areas of Toronto and Vancouver and the remaining two in the Calgary and Quebec City.  Conversely, the ten sickest regions are located in rural and isolated areas of Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

In 2013, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine in the United States published a report on life expectancy and well-being in that country.  Called, “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” the report concluded: “Government investment in public health infrastructure and attention to the foundational drivers of poor health such as poverty and social isolation should be the major areas of discussion as we work towards achieving a healthier population.”

Unfortunately, recent changes in the funding for local Public Health Units across Ontario provides increases in funding to the urban areas while decreasing funding for the rural, northern and sparsely populated areas.  This new, so called, ‘equity funding formula’ serves  to increase the inequity between the rural and urban residents.

The choice of equity factors considered, the accuracy of the data and the weighting of those criteria are subjective.  Indicators such as the Ontario Marginalization Index (dimensions that contribute to the process of marginalization: residential instability, material deprivation, dependency and ethnic concentration) is problematic as it relies the long form census data which is no longer available. Estimates of the aboriginal population and non-census populations are also inaccurate.  Geography affects not just distance to services but also to food, education and job opportunities which affect our health more than the availability of hospitals and clinics.  Urban populations, particularly those with new immigration and English as a second language, are weighed heavily in the funding formula.  There is no equity in a process that systematically increases funding to the healthiest part of the province at the expense of the least healthy and most disadvantaged.

When introducing the Public Health Act to the British Parliament in 1875, Benjamin Disraeli stated that public health is the foundation for “the happiness of the people and the power of the country.  The care of the public’s health is the first duty of a statesman.”   



J. Filipp, Z. Gallinger, A. Motskin; Do You Live in One of the Unhealthiest Places in Canada?, The 10 and 3 (online), September 2015, at: http://www.the10and3.com/do-you-live-in-one-of-the-unhealthiest-places-in-canada/

Department of Health and Social Security (U.K), Report of the Working Group on Inequalities in Health, (Black Report), 1980 at: http://www.sochealth.co.uk/national-health-service/public-health-and-wellbeing/poverty-and-inequality/the-black-report-1980/


S. Woolf, L. Aron, Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2013, at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13497/us-health-in-international-perspective-shorter-lives-poorer-health


R. Bayer, S. Galea, Public Health in the Precision-Medicine Era, The New England Journal of Medicine 373.6, August 2015, at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1506241


Read the resolution from Grey-Bruce Board of Health opposing the new funding formula in light of the impact on rural and northern health units.  

GBHU BOH Resolution 2015-88, Public Health Funding.pdf (913.27 kb)


Poorhouse venue shows Centre-Wellington anything but

by mcassidy@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 6. October 2015 14:47

The site of Canada’s oldest remaining ‘poorhouse’ was the venue for a unique announcement this morning. The Wellington County Museum built in 1877 as a government run House of Industry (AKA poorhouse) hosted the launch event for “Vital Signs – Centre Wellington 2015”. Vital Signs is a ten-year old nation-wide community assessment program led by Community Foundations of Canada. This is the first Vital Signs assessment for Centre-Wellington and people from across the region packed Aboyne Hall to witness the release of the inaugural Vital Signs report.

The report reflects the excellent work of many community leaders including Andrew Goldie (Township of Centre Wellington), Paul Holyoke (Social Justice Group), John Kissick (Artist), Barbara Lee (Elora Arts Council), Ron McKinnon (Community Resource Centre), Maddy Smith (Youth Representative), Paul Young (Young Solutions Family Counselling), Toni Ellis, Carolyn Skimson, Susan Thorning, Jean Prichard, Jason Thompson, Nancy Wood, Erin Pratley (Project Manager), Carly Jenkins (Graphic Designer), J. Raymond Soucy (Photographer) and many others.

Thanks to generous support from “The Wellington Advertiser” local citizens will receive a copy of the Vital Signs report with their newspaper this week. We think they will especially enjoy reading the “Belonging and Leadership” section which profiles the positive impact volunteers, engaged citizens and increasing charitable donations all have in making Centre-Wellington a caring community.

The Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) intends to profile one Ontario Vital Signs community in 2016 as part of our Measuring Rural Community Vitality initiative. If you would like more information about Vital Signs and a link to the Centre-Wellington Vital Signs report just click here

Intelligent Community Forum Launches New Connected Countryside Crowd-funding Campaign

by info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 5. October 2015 10:51

The U.S. based Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) announced the launch of a crowd-funding campaign for its New Connected Countryside project.  For rural Ontarians the campaign is a reminder of a critical issue for the future of rural communities and one not getting as much air time in the federal election as it likely deserves. 

The campaign can be found on Indiegogo here and will be active until November 30. 

The ICF News Release reads:

The New Connected Countryside will counter the severe and rising economic pressure faced by rural communities by providing an online platform where community leaders, residents, institutions and businesses from around the world can connect, exchange advice, share resources and build a global network of peers. The program will also include an annual virtual summit, which will feature experts and thought leaders who will give online presentations and lead panel discussions on important issues for rural communities. The New Connected Countryside is part of ICF’s Rural Imperative initiative.

“The countryside has more to gain from being connected with high-quality broadband than urban areas,” said ICF co-founder Robert Bell. “Since the launch of our Rural Imperative project two years ago, led by ICF senior fellow Dr. Norman Jacknis, we have been working to identify the strategies of rural cities, towns and counties that are prospering in the broadband economy, and to share them. The New Connected Countryside will provide us with a global platform for doing just that while engaging rural community leaders around the world in making positive change for the people they serve.”

A dozen leading rural communities have already committed to participate in the project, from Mitchell, South Dakota and Quitman, Mississippi to Parkland County, Alberta and Wanganui, New Zealand. 


Rural Economic Development (RED) Program Relaunched

by info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 2. October 2015 10:36

The Ontario government announced it has renewed the RED program and is receiving applications again.   Through the cost-share program rural communities, businesses and organizations can receive funding to help attract investment, create jobs, and boost tourism.   Applications will be reviewed and approved through several intake periods:

•             October 2, 2015 to January 15, 2016

•             January 16, 2016 to April 15, 2016

•             April 16, 2016 to July 15, 2016

•             July 16, 2016 to October 15, 2016

•             October 16, 2016 to January 15, 2017

The renewed program has two streams for applications: a Community Development Stream and a Business Development Stream. Most of the changes to the revamped program were made under the Business Development stream.


Specific details can be found on the OMAFRA website here.  


Federal NDP Responds to Rural and Small Town Ontario Election Questions

by info@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 16. September 2015 09:54

The Rural Ontario Institute prepared 10 questions of importance to rural Ontario for the federal election based on priorities from our recent on-line survey.  We provided the questions to the each of the four main federal parties with an invitation to respond.  The federal New Democratic Party has done so and we are sharing their response in the attached .pdf.   We are looking forward to hearing from at least one other party who contacted us to let us know they were intending to provide a response.

NDP Response Rural Ontario Priorities - 091315.pdf (339.40 kb)


A Different Perspective on Population Change

by Rural Ontario Institute 31. August 2015 15:46

This commentary deals with the 2015 Focus on Rural Ontario fact sheets concerning size of the non-metro population, components of population change and immigrant arrivals.  It is provided by Paul Knafelc, President of Community Benchmarks Inc.

Population growth has long been a primary metric of economic vitality. Communities monitor population change and components of population change in an effort to plan for public infrastructure, social services, housing, etc. 

While useful at a high level, this metric has weaknesses that are often overlooked, but when addressed, can greatly enhance population change as a planning tool.

First, as captured in the Fact Sheets, population statistics typically refer to net population change. The net number, however, tells us little about the extent of the population churn or any notable characteristics with respect to population increases or decreases.  For example, did a community attract 1,000 new people through in-migration and lose 1,001 through out-migration? Or, did a community entice just 10 new residents and lose 11?  While the net population change is -1 in each instance, the underlying dynamics are markedly different; as such, the resulting economic development initiatives should be much different.

The number (or proportion) of people moving in and out tells us about a community’s ability to attract and retain people.  It also provides insight on labour market dynamics and skill mismatches.  There are many rural communities that have stagnant net population growth, but are quite successful at attracting people to live there (while at the same time losing residents to death and out-migration).

Second, the connotation that population growth points to a desirable place to live may be disingenuous to rural communities.  A community may be desirable for social, economic and/or physical reasons.  Most rural communities see population decline because of a lack of local jobs or an unreasonable commuting distance to jobs in other areas.  But this doesn’t mean that a community isn’t a desirable place to live. 

How do we know this to be true?  When population churn data is examined alongside associated employment income data, we learn that many rural communities are able to attract people who take a pay decrease to live there.  Desirability of this location, then, must be an influential factor in these decisions.

The same data also shows that for certain rural communities, people are less likely to leave for a pay increase, while conversely, some urban areas have a hard time retaining people, and are losing residents despite a pay decrease.

For example, even with rapid employment growth, Edmonton struggles to retain people, as a large percentage leave for a pay decrease. This fact (from data before the oil price collapse) illustrates that, for many people, the desirability of their new place of residence was higher than that of Edmonton’s.


Collective Impact Workshop - Just in Time

by mcassidy@ruralontarioinstitute.ca 26. August 2015 13:06

Collective Impact Workshop - Just in Time

The Lord Dufferin Centre situated just steps from downtown Orangeville was the perfect venue for yesterday's Collective Impact workshop. About 25 people mainly from the Dufferin County region gathered to hear Sylvia Cheuy (pronounced 'choi') explain what Collective Impact is all about. Sylvia who has the interesting title of Director, Deepening Community Engagement for Tamarack (http://tamarackcommunity.ca/) made a strong case for using Collective Impact to help solve complex community issues like poverty. Tamarack's website is loaded with information and resources about CI so check it out. The Collective Impact Summit conference starts Sept. 28 in Vancouver and Conference details are available at Tamarack’s website http://tamarackcommunity.ca/.

Keith Palmer, Dufferin County's Director of Community Services was on hand to share news about a new community initiative he is bringing before Council next month. "DC MOVES" plans to engage community stakeholders to share information and mobilize action on the important community issues facing Dufferin County. Sounds like a terrific opportunity to use Collective Impact to me.

Measuring the progress being made tackling complex community change isn't easy. The Rural Ontario Institute with financial support from the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has launched "Measuring Rural Community Vitality" to enable information sharing, capture of practitioner insights and lessons learned, and enable the peer exchange of best practices surrounding these hard to measure aspects of community change. Contact Mark Cassidy at mcassidy@ruralontarioinstitute.ca for more information or visit our project webpage at http://www.ruralontarioinstitute.ca/measuring-community-vitality.aspx.


What Are Rural Youth Doing After School? Are They Getting Enough Exercise?

by Rural Ontario Institute 20. August 2015 10:55

This guest blog was provided by Jennifer Ronan of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.

Physical activity is important for health and well-being.   The Eastern Ontario Physical Activity Network (EOPAN) recognizes physical inactivity in rural youth as an important public health issue.   Canadian children and youth spend a large proportion of the after-school time period (between 3-6 p.m.) in sedentary pursuits. During those hours, research suggests that children and youth are getting very little moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity and also that rural youth may experience additional barriers to accessing recreation (and physical activity) opportunities, such as lack of transportation or safety issues. 

With funding from a Heart and Stroke Foundation Spark Grant, five public health units in eastern Ontario surveyed youth in their rural areas to gain a better understanding of their physical activity experiences during the after-school time period.

Rural Youth After-School Experience Related to Physical Activity & Sedentary Behaviours, a discussion paper 2015, identifies patterns in physical activity and sedentary behaviours of grade 7 & 8 youth, living in rural Eastern Ontario. The objective of the paper is to help identify and guide future advocacy efforts related to rural youth physical activity during the after-school period, including the identification of opportunities and potential barriers.

One of the most poignant findings from the survey and the most important take away from this project may be the self-reported high levels of satisfaction rural youth have with their current sedentary after-school experiences.  For those working with youth, it is important to understand that there are multiple barriers to engage rural youth in after-school programs. Simply creating a program may not be enough to entice happy youth away from their current – albeit sedentary – pastimes.

For more information about this project, contact Jennifer Ronan, RN, PHN at Hastings Prince Edward Public Health at jronan@hpeph.ca  The discussion paper (pdf.) is available below.

EOPAN_RuralYouth-Report 2015.pdf (4.26 mb)

Also a related upcoming event by the Rural Ontario East Active Recreation group (ROAR) is being held September 21.